Days after the BJP took action against two of its spokespersons over remarks against Prophet Mohammed amid an international outcry, party leaders on Tuesday were reportedly instructed to be “extremely cautious” when talking about religion on public platforms.
News agency Reuters, which spoke to BJP leaders, reported that the verbal instructions were given to more than 30 senior officials, including spokespersons, and some Union ministers, who are authorised to take part in TV news debates.
“We don’t want party officials to speak in a way that hurts the religious sentiments of any community…They must ensure the party’s doctrine gets shared in a sophisticated manner,” Reuters quoted a senior BJP leader and Union minister in New Delhi as saying.
Some leaders, however, told news agency PTI that the party has not issued any instructions or guidelines. But they said the party spokespersons on their own are staying away from commenting directly on the suspension of its national spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expulsion of Delhi media head Naveen Kumar Jindal.
Some BJP leaders, however, said that the party’s key outreach policy remains that the party spokespersons on TV debates should focus on the party’s central theme of “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas aur sabka prayas”.
“We are not barred from speaking on sensitive religious issues, but we must never insult the basic tenets of any religion,” said senior BJP spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal told Reuters.
Amid demonstrations by Muslim groups and the sharp reaction from the Arab world, the BJP issued a statement asserting that it respects all religions and strongly denounces insults of any religious personality.
Though most party leaders remained mum on the action against Sharma, noted lawyer and MP Mahesh Jethmalani said she was not a fringe politician though under provocation she made an insensitive statement.
“Nupur Sharma is not a fringe politician. Under provocation she made an insensitive statement which she has regretted. The real fringe are those who on public platforms stoke the fire created by her error and ruin GOI’s efforts to repair the damage and restore India’s image abroad,” Jethmalani tweeted.
Several people close to the BJP and the RSS have openly come out in support of Sharma on social media and started a campaign in her favour.
Sharma’s comments, made during a TV debate nearly 11 days ago, and Jindal’s now-deleted tweets sparked a Twitter trend calling for a boycott of Indian products in some countries.
(With inputs from Reuters, PTI)